Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Could the BBC please stop calling it “so-called Islamic State”. It’s Islamic State. Period.

Here’s a headline from the BBC news site, dated 5th October: “Why so-called Islamic State chose to conduct a mass execution in the amphitheatre at Palmyra in Syria”. I heard a BBC TV reporter referring to it as “so-called Islamic State” on the news two nights’ ago. To be fair to the BBC, it’s probably an attempt to quell calls from the so-called Conservative government, multiculti enthusiasts and British Islamic groups to call Islamic State something that doesn't advertise the undeniable fact that every single one of its adherents professes the religion of Islam, and that the terrorist organisation’s overarching aim is to spread Islam’s myriad benefits to every corner of the globe by the simple expedient of murdering or enslaving anyone who’d prefer to follow another religion, or none - including those Muslims who take issue with Islamic State’s bracingly literal interpretation of the rule-book.

In June, a cross-party group of 120 MPs sent a letter to the BBC accusing it of “legitimising” Islamic State by so calling it. The MPs (who included Boris Johnson and Keith Vaz) suggested Daesh as an alternative, an acronym for al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil Iraq wa’al Sham, which means Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Syria). I’m not quite sure what the difference is, given that the first two words of the name being acronymised (?) are Islamic and State. So all the MPs seemed keen to avoid was an instantly audible reminder that the terrorist group is Islamic. What - do they think we’re likely to forget it? If they think it's that simple, why not go the whole hog and ask the BBC to call it ABI (Anything But Islam)?

David Cameron raised the issue during a Today interview with The Great Interrupter (aka John Humphrys):
“I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State because it’s not an Islamic state…What it is, is an appalling, barbarous regime … It’s a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme will recoil every time they hear the words Islamic State.”
Well, maybe, but calling it Appalling Barbarous Regime, while undoubtedly accurate, might sound a bit odd, and might lead viewers to imagine they were listening to a report about, for example, North Korea, or some benighted North African hell-hole. Besides, I’m sure (well, I hope) that many Irish people recoiled every time the IRA identified itself as Irish, and if referring to that merry band of psychopathic gangsters as an “army” didn’t legitimise them, I don’t know what would have. And yet I don’t recall anyone suggesting the BBC refer to them by another name to protect the sensitivities of Britain’s large Irish community.

David Waddell, a senior BBC TV news producer, says he might have been the first journalist to use the “so-called” prefix, and, in an interesting blog (here), offers the following justifications:
There is considerable dispute over whether it is Islamic. Islam is certainly a key factor in its culture and ideology, but the vast majority of the world's Muslims want nothing to do with it.
Although it has its own self-styled caliph, it is not a state. Firstly, it is an organisation or a movement rather than a state, and secondly, the territory it occupies in Iraq and Syria is not recognised as a state by any sovereign nation anywhere in the world.
There are Christian sects in the world which call themselves “Christian This or That” or use the name of Christ in their titles, but whose attitudes would strike the majority of believers as decidedly un-Christian. And yet, as these fundamentalists do evidently believe in the Bible (no matter how warped their interpretation of its message), and although they all accept Christ as their Saviour, other Christians don’t go about demanding that they drop any reference to Christianity in their titles just because we find it distressing, or because we feel it somehow tarnishes the image of our religion. I don’t see why Muslims should expect to be treated any differently to Christians in this respect (or in any other, come to that).

As for the argument that Islamic State isn’t actually a state - well, the name’s aspirational, isn’t it? Besides, it’s been years since the Liberal party here has been in the least bit liberal (except for the personal lives of their parliamentary representatives), the Democrats in America are becoming less democratic with each passing year, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party was pretty damned revolutionary, and the Socialist Workers’ Party has got sod all to do with workers.

I’m personally happy with Islamic State as a name. It at least has the merit of constantly reminding us that they have a strategy. Islamic World would be even better, because that’s exactly what they want, and constantly being reminded of that fact might help our leaders to concentrate on crushing the fuckers, rather than outsourcing the job to Russia. Given that ISIS is the name of the river that runs through Oxford - and is now the name of a range of ceramics launched by Prince Charles, and was the name of a dog in Downton Abbey - I don't see why we should soil it by allowing it to be associated with a bunch of Muslim barbarians. I was initially sceptical regarding the American government’s choice of ISIL (or Isil), but it now seems like the least worst alternative. All right, ISIL happens to be the International Standard Identifier for Libraries and related organisations, but I’m sure the world’s librarians wouldn’t mind lending it to us for a few years.

There are numerous reasons why the civilised world has been unable to agree on a course of military action to defeat Islamic State (mainly that America has a cultural Marxist president who doesn’t much like his own country, and the EU couldn’t organise a successful trip to the local shops). But surely it’s not unreasonable to expect the Free World’s journalists and politicians to be able to reach agreement on what to call a bunch of twenty-something savages. If we can't even manage that, then we really are screwed.


  1. I do like your neat library association - very neat.

  2. very neat indeed.

    (sorry, earlier comment sent too soon, I was trying to reinforce, by repetition, the neatness of your point ....well, it is nearly four in the bloody morning)

    1. Go to bed, for God's sake, man!

      Which reminds me that I forgot to mention that Isis is also, of course, the name of an Ancient Egyptian goddess who married her brother and gave birth to Horus. Autre temps, autre moeurs, as they say.

  3. I was about to recommend 'Isis in the Graeco-Roman' World by RE Witt (a fine book) but thought 'Ha! Philosophers. What's da point?'


    1. Tim Stephenson on Radio 4:

      'The poet T.S. Eliot was once recognised by a taxi driver as he stepped in to his cab. The taxi driver told him “I’ve got an eye for a celebrity. Only the other evening I picked up the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell and I said to him what’s it all about? And you know he couldn’t tell me.”'

      If Dirty Bertie couldn't come up with an answer, it's unlikely I will.

  4. I'm longing for the day when Isis becomes Waswas.

  5. Perhaps we should start calling them "WasWas" anyway, and see if that causes recruitment to stall.

  6. April 2017. They're still at it. "So-called". This ridiculous car-crash of a moniker is, it would seem, here to stay. A stain on the news coverage of this so-called world leader of news coverage.